The year 2019 offers the opportunity to move faster to break the multiple chains that hinder the actualisation of Africa’s rich potential, Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, said in his New Year message to the continent.
The Chadian politician and diplomat, who has been AU Commission Chairperson since March 2017, acknowledged the various challenges the continent continues to grapple with but noted that with Agenda 2063, Africa has developed a roadmap that clearly articulates the path forward for its emergence.
Agenda 2063 is a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next five decades.
The deepening of continental unity, Mahamat indicated, will be important.
Mahamat said: “The year 2019 offers the opportunity to move faster to break the multiple chains that hinder the actualisation of Africa’s rich potential.
“From this point of view, nothing is more decisive than the deepening of continental unity. As I have pointed out many times, with unity we are everything; without it we are nothing.”
Mahamat started off by noting that the past 12 months were marked by further progress in the continental integration process.
Last January, African leaders launched the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).
To date, he said, 27 member states have joined the market.
The Extraordinary Summit held in March, in Kigali, saw the opening for signature of the Agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the protocol on free movement of persons, right of residence and right of establishment.
The AfCFTA is so far signed by 49 member states and ratified by 14, while the free movement protocol, which garnered 32 signatures, has one ratification.
“It cannot be stressed enough how crucial integration is for the development of the continent and the fulfilment of its people’s aspiration to well-being,” Mahamat said.
Guidelines on design, production and issuance of African passport
Mahamat said that come next month at the 32nd Summit of our Union, in Addis Ababa, the Commission will present, for adoption, guidelines on the design, production and issuance of the African passport, the materialization of which will “take us one step closer” to the long-held dream of complete free movement across the continent.
The long-awaited Pan-African passport was launched, in July 2016, at the opening ceremony of the 27th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU, in Kigali.
Investment in infrastructure is an important aspect of continental integration, he further noted.
The year 2018 saw the beginning of the development of the second phase of the Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA); acceleration of the process towards the creation of the continental electricity market; and the operationalization of the African Renewable Energy Initiative.
To mobilise the necessary political support for these initiatives and SAATM, Mahamat appointed a High Representative to follow up on them.
Quest for peace and security
Mahamat said that the quest for peace and security was a major priority for the Union in 2018.
“It is all the more so as our leaders have solemnly pledged to do everything possible to silence the guns by 2020, by ending the wars and other acts of violence that continue to afflict different parts of our continent and cause untold suffering.”
“Clearly, achieving this goal requires renewed efforts on the part of all our Member States, civil society and other actors: peace is a global undertaking that requires the involvement of all.”
African solidarity, he added, whether manifested among states or in favor of the most vulnerable, is one of the fundamental tenets of Pan-Africanism.
Role of women and youth
Whether it is to ensure development and integration, promote peace and security, or strengthen the foundations of good governance, the role of women and youth is central, Mahamat said.
It is therefore with renewed determination, he said, that efforts to promote gender equality and African youth empowerment will be pursued.
“The formation of parity governments in Ethiopia and Rwanda and, more generally, the progress made in gender mainstreaming are encouraging steps that need to be expanded.
“The appointment of an envoy and the establishment of an AU Advisory Council for the Youth are also part of this commitment to involve all segments of our people in the drive towards continental renewal.”
The year 2018 has certainly seen significant progress for which the continent can take legitimate pride, Mahamat said, but many challenges persist.
He said that “conflicts and violence remain a reality” that affects the lives of large segments of the African population and the democratization processes and the promotion of good governance are still fraught with difficulties.
“Poverty and misery are the daily lot of hundreds of millions of people even though the continent is endowed with wealth and talent.”
The voice of Africa on the international stage is still insufficiently taken into account, he noted, while the continent represents more than a quarter of the membership of the United Nations.